July 26, 2021
Finding a tight match for your brand and an ad agency can seem like a quest for the holy grail. If you haven’t noticed, there are thousands of agencies, ranging from billion-dollar multinationals to mom-and-pop shops. Here’s what our three partners came up with to help you get it right. Finding a tight match for your brand and an ad agency can seem like a quest for the holy grail. If you haven’t noticed, there are thousands of agencies, ranging from billion-dollar multinationals to mom-and-pop shops. Here’s what our three partners came up with to help you get it right.
- Find the second-best agency. Perdue asked Sam McCabe, the legendary copywriter, how he should choose an agency. McCabe's advice was to ask every agency head which two agencies were best suited to handle his account. He reasoned that everyone would pick their shop for number one, so the agency that showed up the most as the second choice was the winner.
- Insist on seeing work by the people who will work on the account. Agencies, including us at times, can be long-in-the-tooth with their portfolios. You don't want to hire an agency based on work by the art director five art directors ago. Agency personnel turns over just as quickly as marketing directors.
- Right size. Hire the agency you need to succeed right now. For example, are you on the brink of marketing automation (say the next six months), or are you dreaming of it? Don't pay for more agency than you need.
- Find out who will handle your account day-to-day. Take the account team out to lunch. What's the chemistry like? It should be excellent because you'll be spending a lot of time in the trenches together.
- Give the agency your budget and ask them to spend all of it in a proposal. Otherwise, you may find yourself on an elevator to the bottom floor, where interns and junior people cobble together your website or ads. Find the agency that can give you the best value for your money instead of the one that's the cheapest. And, if you value your agency, you'll pay them well, so they'll be around next year or when you move to your next job.
- Ask your agency if they ever fired a client and why. You want your agency to speak truth to power, but you don't want a bunch of hotheads running your account, either.
- If you absolutely must ask for spec work, pay for it – at least enough to cover expenses on a campaign or set of mock-ups. The agency will peg you as fair, and you can count on more oomph in the thinking for your business.
- Ask if they handle pro bono work and what their criteria are for taking a pro bono account. You'll get a read on what they value. Are they the type to walk a grandmother across the street or push her into traffic?
- Loyalty. Your agency should be loyal to your business and provide exclusivity in your category. You don't want the best social media program going to your competition.
- Skip the awards ceremony. Awards mean the agency produced excellent work according to the award show's standards. They favor hamsters and monkeys, but they're not the barometer of the agency's effectiveness. Lean on the agency attributes that will drive the results you need.